General | February 6, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Are you looking for healthy ways to cook your food? Could you be using toxic cookware such as non-stick pans and aluminium that is making you sick? Unfortunately, most people have these items in their kitchen and they could be leaching toxic chemicals into your food.
It is often used to make pots and pans because it conducts heat quickly, is lightweight and cheap to buy.
Aluminium, also leaches very easily, especially when heated or exposed to very acidic foods such as tomato, orange or vinegar. But, it is not just aluminium that can leach, other metals such as cadmium and arsenic can also be transferred into food. Aluminium is a toxic metal that has been shown to damage the nervous system. Research has revealed that individuals chronically exposed to aluminium are 71% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.
Stainless steel is a better option compared to aluminium, it leaches less metals and is great for boiling or cooking liquids. The downside of stainless steel is that food will stick so you need to use more oil to lubricate the surface when cooking. The other pitfall is that stainless steel is stabilized with chromium and nickel. This makes it stronger and prevents rust. Unfortunately, some research has shown that when acidic foods are cooked for long periods it can leach the nickel and chromium into the food. If your cooking with stainless steel, it’s best not to cook acidic foods such as tomato-based dishes.
This is the most popular form of cookware. It is appealing to people who wish to use less oil or no oil when cooking and don’t want their food stuck to the surface.
Teflon and other non-stick surfaces release toxic fumes into the air and food when heated. If the surface becomes damaged or scratched particles can end up mixed into your food. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA’s) and Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are the chemicals used to coat non-stick products and are theorized to cause serious health issues. In animals PFOA’s have been shown to cause tumours, changes in pituitary gland sizes and organ toxicity. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that a whopping 98% of American’s had PFOA’s in their bodies.
Cast-iron cookware is one of the safest cooking pans available. They can also function well as a non-stick pan if you season them properly. Seasoning involves coating the pan with oil and baking at a high heat in the oven before using. Cast iron with a ceramic glaze is also suitable for cooking foods with a high acid content. Avoid use if you have haemachromatosis or "high iron" health conditions.
Ceramic cookware is another example of a safer option. The only concern with ceramic is that if produced in a foreign country it could contain lead in the glaze, as well as cadmium and nickel. To prevent these chemicals in your foods when cooking opt for a ceramic coating made from natural materials such as sand and stone, free from PFOA, PTFE and lead.
Safer utensils to use include wood and bamboo, especially if they are organic.
Utensils that are made from metal or plastic have the ability to leach chemicals into food if they are heated. They can also scratch the surface of pots and pans, damaging them and possibly allowing for the release of toxic metals.
Replacing cookware can be an expensive process. Try just replacing one piece at a time and it pays off buying a good quality brand. Think of it as a long-term investment in your health. If your Teflon pans are scratched and flaking, it’s probably time to replace these items pronto.
All methods of cooking do result in some loss of nutrients. Steaming foods has been shown the best method to retain nutrients, especially chlorophyll and water soluble nutrients such as vitamin C. Baking foods for shorter periods and microwaving are also good options to retain vitamins and minerals.
The worst methods for cooking that reduce the foods nutritional value include stir-frying and boiling and cooking foods for long periods of time. However, it does also depend on the food you are cooking. For example, fatty fish, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid, is best boiled or baked to retain its nutrients. Omega-3 is prone to damage at high temperatures and frying tuna has been shown to degrade its omega-3 content by up to 70-85%.
It is important to note what oil you are using for cooking. Heating certain oils to high temperatures for long periods of time can lead to toxic substances called aldehydes being formed. Aldehydes have been linked to an increased risk of cancer and other diseases. It is recommended to cook at lower temperatures, to not overcook food and use oils that are less easily damaged such as coconut, olive or even avocado oil.
While the odd barbeque here and there is ok, eating too many charred foods can have a negative impact on your health. When meat is barbequed, a chemical reaction turns creatine into a group of compounds referred to as heterocyclic amines (HCA’s). There is some evidence that these compounds cause cancer in high concentrations. While frying and grilling will produce some HCA’s, barbecues tend to be much hotter, causing the meat to become more charred. The smoke from a barbeque also coats the meat with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s)—another group of chemicals known to cause cancer. If you are worried about the levels of these chemicals in your food when barbecuing, you can microwave or steam your food first and then sear on the barbecue for flavour. This has been shown to reduce levels of these carcinogens by up to 90%.
To conclude, when it comes to healthy cooking try stainless steel and cast-iron with or without a good quality ceramic coating. And when it comes to preserving nutrients in food, steaming is the best option. Avoid over heating oils, charred foods or too many grilled foods.
Wang Z, et al. Chronic exposure to aluminium and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: A meta-analysis. Neurosci Lett. 2016 Jan 1;610:200-6
Weidenhamer JD, et al. Metal exposures from aluminium cookware: An unrecognized public health risk in developing countries. Sci Total Environ. 2017 Feb 1;579:805-813
Rebeniak M, et al. Exposure to lead and cadmium released from ceramics and glassware intended to come into contact with food. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2014;65(4):301-9
Guillen MD, Uriarte PS. Aldehydes contained in edible oils of a very different nature after prolonged heating at frying temperature: Presence of toxic oxygenated α,β unsaturated aldehydes. Food Chem. 1 Apr 2012;131(3):915-26